An Arithmetic Count of the Lines on a Smooth Cubic Surface

Journal Article

We give an arithmetic count of the lines on a smooth cubic surface over an arbitrary field $k$, generalizing the counts that over $\mathbb{C}$ there are $27$ lines, and over $\mathbb{R}$ the number of hyperbolic lines minus the number of elliptic lines is $3$. In general, the lines are defined over a field extension $L$ and have an associated arithmetic type $\alpha$ in $L^*/(L^*)^2$. There is an equality in the Grothendieck-Witt group $\operatorname{GW}(k)$ of $k$ $$\sum_{\text{lines}} \operatorname{Tr}_{L/k} \langle \alpha \rangle = 15 \cdot \langle 1 \rangle + 12 \cdot \langle -1 \rangle, $$ where $\operatorname{Tr}_{L/k}$ denotes the trace $\operatorname{GW}(L) \to \operatorname{GW}(k)$. Taking the rank and signature recovers the results over $\mathbb{C}$ and $\mathbb{R}$. To do this, we develop an elementary theory of the Euler number in $\mathbb{A}^1$-homotopy theory for algebraic vector bundles. We expect that further arithmetic counts generalizing enumerative results in complex and real algebraic geometry can be obtained with similar methods.

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Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Kass, JL; Wickelgren, K